(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The federal government has officially decided to review its decision to award the FBI’s new headquarters to Prince George’s County, Maryland, over Fairfax County.
The inspector general’s office for the General Service Administration has initiated an evaluation of the “process and procedures” that led the agency to choose a 61-acre site near the Greenbelt Metro station for the FBI’s future headquarters campus, according to a letter sent to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) today (Thursday).
“We intend to begin this work immediately and will share with you and the relevant committees a copy of any report which may result from this evaluation,” acting Inspector General Robert Erickson wrote.
The GSA announced on Nov. 9 that the Greenbelt site had prevailed over the former Landover Mall in Prince George’s County and its own Franconia Warehouse Complex (6808 Loisdale Road) in Springfield, concluding a combative search that spanned three presidential administrations.
Local, state and Congressional representatives in Virginia quickly blasted the decision, arguing that the GSA should’ve followed a panel recommendation that identified the Springfield site as the “most advantageous.” Those criticisms coalesced into a call for an investigation after a leaked letter showed that FBI Director Christopher Wray had opposed the Greenbelt location and raised conflict-of-interest concerns.
Wray suggested former GSA Commissioner of Public Buildings Nina Albert may have interfered with the process to favor the Greenbelt site, which is owned by Metro, her previous employer. The GSA disputed Wray’s claims, noting that it had reviewed Albert for possible ethics conflicts in 2021 and found that her history with Metro wasn’t disqualifying.
Warner and fellow senator Tim Kaine welcomed the inspector general’s announcement of an investigation in a joint statement with Virginia’s House of Representatives delegation, including Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Jennifer Wexton.
Given the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) administered a site selection process fouled by politics, we agree that an inspector general investigation is the appropriate next step. We applaud the inspector general for moving quickly and encourage him to move forward to complete a careful and thorough review. In the meantime, the GSA must pause all activities related to the relocation until the IG’s investigation is complete.
A spokesperson for the GSA’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed the office has started an evaluation of the headquarters site selection in response to the request from members of Congress, which it is taking seriously.
“All inspectors general regularly receive requests to conduct oversight from Members of Congress and must regularly decide whether the subject matter of the request supports directing OIG resources to answer some, none, or all of the issues raised in the request,” the office said in a statement. “GSA OIG’s decision to start an evaluation reflects the importance of the FBI headquarters project and is consistent with our past work in this area.”
Currently located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in D.C., the FBI has been seeking a replacement for the aging J. Edgar Hoover Building for more than a decade now. The GSA initiated a search in 2012, but it got put on hold during Donald Trump’s presidency.
In a subsequent review, the Justice Department’s inspector general determined that the Trump administration’s push to keep the FBI headquarters in D.C. was not influenced by “improper considerations or motives.”
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Virginia’s elected leaders may not agree on issues like abortion access or education, but they remain united by the conviction that the Commonwealth would be a better host than Maryland for the FBI.
After coming together to pitch a Springfield warehouse as the best site for the law enforcement agency’s new headquarters, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Virginia’s bipartisan House delegation last Thursday (Nov. 9) to blast the federal government for awarding the facility to Prince George’s County instead.
“It was outrageous,” Warner said in a press call earlier that day. “I mean, Virginia clearly was the better case. Virginia clearly was winning the first set of criteria. The fact that political pressure was put on to try to change the criteria really stunned me.”
Their outrage was echoed by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, who has called Springfield a “no-brainer” choice for the FBI’s new headquarters.
“This is profoundly disappointing and defies common sense,” McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “The FBI headquarters should be strategically located near the training academy in Quantico, a short VRE ride from the Springfield site. This decision will not serve the long-term needs of the FBI or its employees nearly as well as the Virginia site would.”
The General Services Administration (GSA) announced Thursday that it has selected a 61-acre site near the Greenbelt Metro station in Maryland to serve as the FBI’s new headquarters campus, confirming an initial report by the Washington Post that came out a day earlier.
“The site was the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule,” the agency said in a press release. “It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity.”
However, a previously confidential report released by the GSA showed that a site selection panel convened this summer had recommended the Springfield site — currently known as the GSA Franconia Warehouse Complex at 6808 Loisdale Road — as the one “most advantageous to the Government.”
The panel, which consisted of two GSA employees and one FBI employee, noted that the site had the advantage of already being owned by the federal government and had more capacity for an expansion than the Greenbelt site, which ranked the lowest of the three options on that criteria.
The Greenbelt site came out ahead of the former Landover Mall, also in Prince George’s, but it was the “least advantageous” when it came to the top criterion: proximity to other facilities critical to the FBI, including its training academy in Quantico and federal agencies in D.C. like the Justice Department.
Further raising eyebrows in Virginia, FBI Director Christopher Wray rejected the proposed relocation to Greenbelt in an Oct. 12 letter first reported by the Washington Post, stating that former GSA Commissioner of Public Buildings Nina Albert’s previous job with Metro created “unresolved” conflict-of-interest and transparency issues. Read More
(Updated at 6 p.m.) A project to enhance the capacity of a key rail line through Fairfax County is chugging along, thanks to a major infusion of federal cash.
The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority has been awarded $100 million in federal funds to design and build a bridge that will allow Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak trains to cross over tracks approaching the Franconia-Springfield station (6880 Frontier Drive), Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced yesterday (Thursday).
The bridge will relieve congestion and open up the possibility of additional passenger and freight service on the railway, which is one of Virginia’s busiest, according to the senators.
“Passenger rail is a vital connector for so many Virginians — carrying people to their work, their families, and their travel plans,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement. “We’re thrilled to see this funding make rail safer and more efficient for Virginians by addressing a critical chokepoint in a vital location, alleviating congestion for hundreds of Virginians every single day.”
Under development since 2021, the Franconia-Springfield Bypass will consist of a roughly 1-mile-long bridge that will carry passenger trains over two existing tracks for CSX freight trains just south of the rail station, VPRA officials said at a neighborhood meeting in July.
The bridge will have just one track, but it will be built to accommodate a future second track.
The project is part of a larger push by Virginia to improve its rail service between Fredericksburg and D.C. Other projects include an extension of a third track that currently starts in Alexandria for about six miles from Franconia to Lorton.
“Expanding passenger rail as an alternative to interstate travel is critical as traffic congestion in Northern Virginia continues to grow at an unsustainable rate,” VPRA Executive Director DJ Stadtler said. “Building the Franconia-Springfield Bypass will allow us to expand our state-supported rail service by alleviating train interference at the most congested point in Virginia…The bypass is key to providing Virginians with reliable, consistent, and convenient passenger rail service.”
According to VPRA, engineering on the bypass is scheduled to begin this year, with construction potentially kicking off in 2024 and finishing in 2026. VPRA has budgeted $405 million overall for the project, a spokesperson says.
The new federal funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021 and a fiscal year 2022 spending package, Warner’s office said.
A proposal to add long-distance flights at Reagan National Airport has officially failed, to the relief of area representatives who feared it would undermine Dulles International Airport.
The House of Representatives rejected the proposal — which was included in a package of changes to the Federal Aviation Administration’s policies that passed overall — by a 229-205 vote on Wednesday (July 19).
Pitched by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah), the proposal, which would have increased the number of flights that travel beyond 1,250 miles from National Airport, attracted significant pushback from local and regional officials.
In late May, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said the move would increase flight delays and have a detrimental impact on the local economy, arguing that the Arlington airport lacks the capacity of Dulles Airport just over the Loudoun County border.
Rep. Don Beyer (D) called the defeat of the proposal a win for the region.
“This strong bipartisan vote of opposition should make it clear, as the Senate takes up their own FAA authorization, that proposals to weaken DCA’s slot and perimeter rules do not have majority support in the Congress,” Beyer wrote in a statement.
Fairfax County Board Chairman Jeff McKay lauded the county’s congressional delegation for defeating the proposal.
“It’s clear that this would have been an intrusive and unwelcome addition to DCA and appreciate the bipartisan approach to supporting residents of Fairfax County,” McKay said.
The Board of Supervisors had argued that the proposed changes would disrupt the balance between the region’s two major airports.
Sen. Mark Warner said he was happy to see “sanity win” in the House.
“I’ll continue fighting these changes — which would exacerbate delays and ruin folks’ travel plans — as we consider this legislation in the Senate soon, too,” Warner tweeted.
Glad to see sanity win in the House last night as they defeated chaotic changes to slot rules at DCA! I’ll continue fighting these changes – which would exacerbate delays and ruin folks’ travel plans – as we consider this legislation in the Senate soon, too.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) July 20, 2023
There has been another change in criteria for determining where the new FBI headquarters will go, prompting annoyance and even anger from several local officials.
Late last week, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that it will now weigh cost and “advancing equity” as factors of higher importance when deciding if the new FBI headquarters will end up in Springfield or one of two sites in Prince George’s County, Maryland, per an updated site selection plan.
“The consultations with the delegations provided valuable feedback, and helped us refine our plan to maximize value for the FBI and the public,” said GSA commissioner Nina Albert in a press release. “While the core elements of the site selection plan remain the same, we have updated the plan to incorporate new government-wide directives and to increase the consideration of cost to deliver better value for taxpayers. We believe these adjustments will support a process that results in a site that best serves the FBI and the public for years to come.”
The federal agency also lowered the importance of transportation accessibility and the proximity of being near other FBI facilities (like Quantico, which is in Virginia). Proximity remains the highest determining factor, though, sitting at 25%.
This is the second time in less than a year that the GSA “updated” its criteria for selecting the location of the new headquarters. It also comes a little over a month after the FBI stressed the importance of having a headquarters close to its pre-existing facilities.
GSA anticipates making a decision on where the new FBI headquarters will go “in the coming months,” the press release notes. Some had anticipated a decision was going to be announced in March, but that didn’t happen.
The late-stage shift has prompted a number of Virginia lawmakers to speak out, arguing that this change is a result of political inference and constant lobbying from Maryland officials seeking to gain an edge for the Prince George’s sites.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, whose 11th District includes the Springfield site, was particularly incensed. In a statement posted on social media, Connolly accused Maryland of trying to “cook the books” and the GSA of caving to political pressure.
Only Virginia has consistently opposed and condemned political meddling in what should be a purely independent, agency-run effort. We will continue to make the case for the only location that truly makes sense for the FBI HQ – Springfield, Virginia. pic.twitter.com/WqdGZNM6H7
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) July 14, 2023
Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner put out a combined statement reiterating their confidence that the FBI will still end up moving to Fairfax County, coupled with worries that the change will further delay a decision that’s been in the works for years.
The GSA didn’t pluck its initial criteria out of thin air — it spent years talking to experts and carefully deliberating on what is best for the mission of the FBI. While we are concerned that these changes to the criteria will further delay what has already been a drawn-out, decade-long process to select a new site to replace the dilapidated headquarters downtown, we remain confident that Virginia continues to be a home run in every category, and encourage the GSA to draw this process to a close sooner rather than later.
In a statement to FFXnow, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay also expressed his displeasure, particularly with the likelihood of another delay of a final decision. Read More
Metro’s bus facility in Franconia is a step closer to going electric, thanks to a big infusion of funding from the federal government.
The Federal Transit Administration has awarded Metro a $104 million grant to convert its Cinder Bed Road Bus Division garage at 7901 Cinder Bed Road into a fully electric facility, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced Monday (June 26).
In addition to supporting new charging infrastructure, the funds will enable Metro to buy about 100 battery-powered buses and develop a training program for drivers, mechanics and first responders, according to Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who lauded the grant in a joint statement.
“We appreciate the Federal Transit Administration’s leadership in the transition to zero-emission bus technology that will help reduce air pollution and improve quality of life across the region,” WMATA Board Chair Paul Smedberg said, thanking the senators and other federal, state and local elected officials for helping secure the money.
Metro’s board of directors adopted a plan in 2021 directing the transit agency to purchase only buses that don’t produce carbon emissions by 2030 and fully transition to a zero-emission bus fleet by 2045.
Metro’s first electric bus arrived this month as part of an initial 12-vehicle batch that will operate out of the Shepherd Parkway garage in D.C., according to WMATA. The vehicles were expected earlier, but the delivery got delayed after a fire in Connecticut last summer forced the manufacturer New Flyer to recall hundreds of buses.
Located northeast of the I-95 and Fairfax County Parkway interchange, the Cinder Bed Road garage houses 121 40-foot buses that serve 11 routes, as of December 2021. It has parking for 160 vehicles and 13 maintenance bays.
According to Metro’s transition plan, the facility could host 112 battery-powered electric buses. It has “safe and efficient site circulation,” but a stacked bus parking layout and existing underground infrastructure for utilities and stormwater pose hurdles.
To fully cover the cost of converting the Cinder Bed garage, the federal grant will be matched by “a combination of local funding,” a Metro spokesperson said.
Fairfax County plans to use the facility for its future Richmond Highway bus rapid transit service. Branded as The One, the system will operate all-electric buses from Fort Belvoir to the Huntington Metro station, potentially beginning in 2030.
“Thanks to our partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and federal support, we will soon deliver a fully converted battery-electric bus facility in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “This project aligns with the county’s important goal of carbon neutral government operations by 2040 and is an investment in the region’s transit system and clean energy that will bring significant environmental and community benefits.”
The conversion design process is slated to begin later this year, with a projected opening coming in 2027-2028, according to WMATA’s transition plan. Read More
(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Local charitable organization Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (4511 Daly Drive J) welcomed Sen. Mark Warner through its doors last week.
On Friday, June 16, Warner toured WFCM’s food pantry and warehouse in Chantilly and participated in a roundtable discussion with WFCM leaders and partners, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, Wegmans, Boy Scouts and Kings of Kings Lutheran Church.
WFCM primarily provides financial resources and free food and toiletries to residents of Fairfax County’s Sully District.
WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo says Warner had reached out to Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith to see how federal funding designated to the district during the COVID-19 pandemic has been used.
“What an opportunity for him to be able to see that this is how your money’s been spent, right?” Taddeo, who led Warner on the tour of WFCM’s facilities, said. “You approve these bills? Now, here’s literally the milk in the refrigerators that [those bills] paid for.”
In 2020 and 2021, WFCM received $1 million and $1.2 million respectively, from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Emergency rent assistance funds also granted WFCM $5.5 million in 2021, and the American Rescue Plan Act gave WFCM $257,588 in 2022 and $151,480 in 2023, according to a handout provided by the nonprofit.
These funds provided relief for WFCM, which saw a marked increase in need as soon as the pandemic hit.
“Before the pandemic, we were probably serving 300 families a month in the food pantry, and we spiked all the way up to 650,” Taddeo said. “Now we’re about 500 to 550 every single month…So the needs are just so much greater, and we think they’re going to take a long time to go back.”
With WFCM continuing to experience high demand for its services, Food Pantry Manager Kristine Hurt implored Warner to relay to Congress the significance of funding local food pantries like WFCM.
“I hope you see, beside our hearts, that we’re very efficient with money here,” Hurt said during the discussion. “And when you’re saying you need to cut things, I hope that you can go and share that this is a program that is using every dollar better than anybody else could in my opinion.”
Acknowledging the concerns over the potential decrease in federal funding for local food programs as emergency funds authorized during the pandemic dwindle, Warner told FFXnow that his office will continue to defend local organizations that had been assisted.
“How do we make sure that these great initiatives where we’re really stretching dollars don’t disappear because the Covid funds are going to run out?” Warner said. “…[We’re going to] see if we can do more in terms of direct investment, but also in terms of seeing if we can even give greater tax credit benefits.”
Warner also noted that he plans to continue using his platform to combat food insecurity locally through the Farm Bill, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018.
“Most of the food programs are actually funded through the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bill,” Warner said. “[The Farm Bill] usually goes for five years — it sets up all the programs, things like these food relief programs…This is the year that it’s supposed to get renewed. So we’re trying to build in things like this challenge around food deserts.” Read More
A proposal for more long-distance flights at Reagan National Airport (DCA) is catching the ire of some of Virginia’s Congressional representatives, who say it could undermine efforts to grow Dulles International Airport (IAD).
Proponents led by Capital Access Alliance argue that current restrictions at Reagan National — an airport owned by the federal government — are outdated and hurt the economy. They want to increase the number of flights that travel beyond 1,250 miles from the airport, allowing as many as 25 daily round trips.
According to the Alliance:
Since the late 1960s, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) has been the only airport subject to a federally imposed perimeter rule, which limits the number of flights that are allowed to take-off and land outside a 1,250-mile perimeter. However, the consumer, economic, technological and industry landscape has changed substantially in the last 60 years, and the rule’s original goals no longer apply to today’s air travel ecosystem in the nation’s capital.
The group released a study by Boston Consulting Group that argues more long-distance flights would boost all airlines equally, reduce ticket prices for passengers, and result in millions of dollars in economic growth.
But senators who represent Virginia and Maryland say that the proposal will undermine Dulles, just as more customers may utilize the airport due to the arrival of Metro last year.
In a joint statement issued last Wednesday (April 26), Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said that past efforts to allow exceptions to the perimeter pool have “produced significant stress” on the airport.
“Those changes have also prevented Dulles, whose size allows for larger planes to land and take off, from realizing its full potential as the primary long-haul flight destination for the Washington metropolitan area,” the statement reads.
According to the letter, Reagan National is now seeing more travelers than Dulles, even though the international airport was designed for more capacity.
For over a decade, traffic at DCA has risen sharply, while IAD has declined or stagnated in the same measures. In 2010, total annual enplanements at IAD exceeded those at DCA by more than 5 million. At the end of 2019, before COVID-19 upended the national aviation industry, IAD outpaced DCA by less than a million passengers annually. Now, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and Americans return to travel, this pattern has worsened. Today, IAD trails DCA by more than 1 million.
The senators go on to argue that loosening the slot and perimeter rules threatened the balance between the airports.
“As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we will strongly oppose any efforts to disrupt or undermine the balance between Dulles and National, an airport one-fourteenth the size of Dulles,” the statement said.
Warner wrote a similar letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation in March.
Congress is expected to take up the FAA’s reauthorization bill this fall.
In an unusual show of bipartisan unity, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will attend a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) with Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and other elected leaders to rally for a Northern Virginia FBI headquarters.
A release from Warner’s office said the elected leaders will hold a press conference in Springfield to lay out the case for bringing the proposed headquarters to Fairfax County.
According to the release:
The press conference comes as the FBI and the General Services Administration (GSA) work to finalize a location for the new headquarters after years of work on the project spanning multiple presidential administrations.
The press conference follows a letter from the Commonwealth’s congressional delegation and Gov. Youngkin, detailing the ways in which Springfield best meets the five selection criteria set forth by the GSA and FBI, which are: support for the FBI mission requirement; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity; and cost.
The bidding war over the FBI headquarters is possibly the most intense skirmish between Virginia and Maryland since 1865. Virginia is hoping to bring the FBI to a 58-acre site in Springfield, while Maryland is hoping to draw the FBI to Landover or Greenbelt.
The lineup looks like Coachella for Fairfax County elected leadership, with representatives Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer and Abigail Spanberger joining Youngkin and the senators, along with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, and representatives from other local organizations.
McKay previously accused Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) — multiple times — of unfairly trying to tip the scales in favor of the FBI purchasing a Maryland site currently owned by WMATA. Maryland, meanwhile, has argued that proximity to Quantico is being too heavily weighted in favor of Virginia.
The Board of Supervisors approved its own letter to the GSA and FBI last week advocating for the Springfield site, which currently a warehouse for the GSA right next to the agency’s headquarters.
The press conference is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. at Northern Virginia Community College (6699 Springfield Center Drive).
A cycle path to the Innovation Center Metro station is circling closer to construction.
Roughly $4 million in federal funding was secured for the project, which will include a cycle path from Sunrise Valley Drive to Innovation Metro Station, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced yesterday.
The upgrades are part of the county’s Active Transportation Program, which covers non-motorized methods of travel and aims to reduce vehicle traffic.
The changes to the four-lane boulevard, which also has additional turning lanes at various intersections, would connect to existing bicycle and pedestrian paths, notably the Fairfax County Parkway Trail, FFXnow previously reported.
“This project will provide significantly improved access to several Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail Stations and high-density transit-oriented development near the Metrorail Stations and activity centers,” said a statement breaking down the funds designated for Northern Virginia.
Other projects also fit the bill in Fairfax County.
Among them is a neighborhood job and entrepreneurship research center for teens and young adults in the county’s community centers. The centers will offer teens and young adults career readiness skills, job training and leadership programs, according to the release. That project is expected to cost $2.1 million.
In Springfield, the Northern Virginia Community College’s Medical Education Campus will receive $2.2 million to grow its nursing program. Funds will also go towards buying computerized manikins and other technology to supplement clinic training for nursing, respiratory therapy and EMS students.
Other cyclist-related improvements include $1 million for bicycle and pedestrians upgrades near the Vienna Metrorail Station in Oakton. The project is targeted to the area near the station and Oakton High School.
A complete list of secured funds is available online.